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2010 BMW X3 Performance Review

Note: This performance review was created when the 2010 BMW X3 was new.


Performance: 8.7


The majority of test drivers are very pleased with the BMW X3's performance, which offers plenty of power and especially sporty handling for an SUV.

  • "Like BMW's cars, the X3 offers top-notch road manners. Some may find the steering wheel too difficult to turn, but its heavy rotations render spot-on directional control." -- Cars.com
  • "Among the sportiest SUVs of any size. Body lean is well controlled, and responsiveness is car-like in any driving condition. Steering feel is generally good, but some testers complain that effort is too heavy at low speeds. A tight turning radius helps in close quarters. Strong brakes have good pedal feel." -- Consumer Guide
  • "Among small luxury crossover SUVs, the 2010 BMW X3 xDrive30i has no equal on curvy roads, thanks to superior steering feel, sharp suspension tuning and smooth, eager performance from the inline-6 with either transmission. However, if you're looking for a comfortable family vehicle, the X3's relatively stiff ride -- especially with the optional sport suspension -- likely won't impress." -- Edmunds

Acceleration and Power

Critics feel the engine in the BMW X3 offers plenty of power. It comes with a 3.0-liter 260-horsepower inline six-cylinder engine and is paired with either a six-speed manual transmission or a six-speed automatic (a no-cost option).

The EPA has not yet rated the 2010 model, but 2009 automatic models are rated at 17/24 mpg city/highway, while manual models are rated at 16/23 mpg. These figures are about average for the class, but a few SUVs offer higher fuel economy at even lower prices. The Audi Q5 starts at about $2,000 less and gets an 18/23 mpg rating and offers similarly sporty handling. The Acura RDX is also worth consideration since it costs about $4,000 less and boasts an even better 19/24 mpg rating.

  • "It has crisp initial throttle response and acceleration that builds and builds the deeper you plant your foot." -- Car and Driver
  • "We drove only the 3.0i, which, with either transmission, had punch aplenty for merging onto the Costa del Sol's autovias and chasing goats through narrow mountain switchbacks." -- Automobile Magazine
  • "The standard manual transmission is one of the best stick shifts on the market, moving between ratios with a well-weighted accuracy. But BMW USA's prediction that more than 95 percent of buyers will opt for the smooth-shifting six-speed autobox sounds on the money to us." -- AutoWeek
  • "X3 has strong acceleration from a stop and during highway passing and merging; BMW's claim of 7.9 seconds 0-60 mph feels right. However, nonlinear throttle response aggravates smooth driving, as does the transmission's jerky upshifts and delayed downshifts. Its manual override does help, though. No manual-transmission X3 models have been made available for testing." -- Consumer Guide

Handling and Braking

Test drivers find the X3 to be an extremely competent vehicle on the road -- sporty and with a firm ride. The optional Sport Package ($2,300) comes with a sport suspension and an aerodynamic kit. Servotronic steering, a $250 option, makes steering easier in low-speed maneuvers and in parking lots.

  • "The optional Servotronic steering is flat-out wonderful. It's speed-sensitive, adding more assist at low speeds, and invisibly altering the steering ratio, so the car turns more with less steering input. Parallel-parking is a breeze, as are quick, mid-block U-turns." -- Automotive.com
  • "Its suspension is tuned to tackle long stretches at speed or twists and turns with pinpoint precision and agility." -- Chicago Tribune
  • "The ride is sporty and firm with the base suspension, but bumps are absorbed without undue harshness or unwanted body motions." -- Consumer Guide

All-Wheel Drive

The 2010 X3 features a standard xDrive all-wheel drive (AWD) system, which electronically varies traction control to optimize grip. It's an excellent system for on-road foul weather or modest off-road excursions. The only other SUV in its class that offers this feature standard is the Audi Q5

  • "With limited ground clearance and all-season tires, the X3 has few off-road aspirations but one of the best all-weather all-wheel-drive systems on the market." -- Kelley Blue Book
  • "Beyond the pure performance numbers -- where the X3 simply runs away from the [Land Rover] LR2 -- the BMW is a much more engaging vehicle to drive every day, and it also dispatches all but the roughest terrain with surprising agility." -- Edmunds
  • "BMW insists that the X3 AWD system is meant for on- or off-road use but, without a low setting, we'd probably skip any Baja adventure." -- Chicago Tribune

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